There are different structures that can be used to talk about the future: will, going to, present continuous and present simple. In the charts below, you can find their differences:
As you can see, we use WILL to make predictions based on our opinion. That’s why it is usual to find a future sentence introduced by:
- I think / I don’t think …
- I believe …
- I am sure …
On the other hand, we use the periphrasis GOING TO to express predictions based on fact; what we know, what we can see or hear. In other words, we are reaching conclusions about future events from our surroundings, rather than predicting.
We can also use different future forms to talk about our plans for the future. If we are talking about a future action that we decide at the time of speaking, we must use WILL. Whereas, we use GOING TO or the PRESENT CONTINUOUS to talk about actions that we have already planned. The difference between GOING TO and the PRESENT CONTINUOUS is that we use the latter when we have not only planned but also organised an event.
Therefore, when someone asks you: “What are you going to do this weekend?”, they are asking about your plans. They are not asking you to predict the future. If you have organised a birthday party with your friends and everything is ready, you can answer: “I’m having a birthday party on Saturday night. Would you like to come?”.
In this last chart, we can see that we also use WILL to make promises and to talk about imprecise future events.
Finally, we use the PRESENT SIMPLE to talk about timetables and schedules. So, we use it to talk about the future when we talk about means of transport, shops, banks, museums, conferences, schools or music festivals.